By Jennifer Sawyer
“If you like this one, I’d suggest trying to get an offer in by 5:00,” our realtor said as we walked out of a promising showing. I glanced down at my watch, which read 3:30 p.m., and immediately felt my shoulders tense. My husband and I had been house hunting for several months, and I was unaccustomed to the speed by which we were supposed to make such a life-changing decision. I thought back to the 15 or so minutes we spent touring our potential new home. I’ve spent more time deciding whether or not to purchase a new pair of pants!
My husband and I felt so fortunate to be at a place in our lives where we could consider buying our own home. We were eager to move on from our tiny one-bedroom New York City apartment that had become our office and home and just about everything else over the past two years of pandemic.
We knew the process would be challenging, but we weren’t expecting it to feel quite so cutthroat. We were disheartened by the all-time low inventory, surging prices, long lines outside of open houses and expected immediacy of decision-making. We had already lost out on one house, which received 20 other offers from viable candidates and sold significantly over its asking price, and all signs were pointing to an ongoing emotional rollercoaster ride.
Navigating the home-buying process as a rookie prompted me to reflect more deeply on decision-making. I am, quite possibly, the most indecisive person of all time. I will hem and haw over my options, talk myself in circles, and frequently change my mind before settling on a choice — if I do at all. This has manifested itself both in large decisions (like choosing a college) and in the minutia of my day-to-day life. Just the other day, I spent so long looking at menus for a potential Friday night dinner out that by the time I settled on the spot, hunger had turned to grumpiness for all parties involved.
As a graduate of Fordham University and student of Ignatian spirituality, I’ve found the steps for Ignatian decision-making to be quite helpful in my life. Examining my desires, gathering information, and reflecting over time to discern and live into a change have certainly helped me make good decisions in the past, from discerning a career shift to cultivating important relationships. It’s a process that takes both work and time, and for good reason — the end result is (hopefully) a choice that will bring you closer to God.
I would have very much preferred to house hunt using this method. The only problem was the home-buying process didn’t really lend itself to this sort of time and intentionality. Is there a 60-second version of this? I wondered. So much felt out of our control, and I was struggling with the anxiety of it all.
One afternoon, as we left our apartment for yet another open house, my eyes landed on the frame on the wall next to the door: a print of the Gospel reading from our wedding day two years earlier: A Wise Man Built His House on Rock. I lingered there for a moment with the reading from Matthew, and as I walked down the stairs, thought back to the spirited discussions we had when choosing the readings for our nuptial Mass. My husband, ever the practical one in the relationship, loved the vivid imagery of the contrasting houses built on rock and sand. I was initially on the fence, favoring the more flowery readings about love and becoming one. As we reflected further, I came to deeply appreciate the reading’s emphasis on a strong foundation of faith in God, love for one another and actions rooted in Christ’s teaching. It has only grown on me since.
How had I never previously thought to return to this reading in prayer while searching for a home? After all, we were quite literally looking for a house built on rock (and very much did not want a house that would collapse in the wind). As we navigated the storm of realtor back-and-forths, never-ending paperwork and bank communication, it was all too easy to get caught up in logistics and a checklist of what we were “supposed” to have. Would this kitchen make us happy? Could we deal with a lack of light? Was it an ideal street? As we became tempted to obsess over making the right choice, we realized that remembering our shared foundation as a couple was a crucial part of not getting swept up in the chaos.
I began praying with the reading, envisioning myself in the crowd of disciples as Jesus delivered his teaching: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” I imagined the pensive silence, then chatter of the crowd, as we found ourselves struck by the metaphor. I felt the spark of inspiration. I experienced the shift of my worldly, practical, material concerns replaced by a newfound sense of perspective about what was truly important. Home didn’t mean finding the perfect house; home meant a healthy, loving relationship with my spouse and trust in God to see us through.
The more time I spent with this reading, the more rooted I felt. I was reminded about what a true foundation looks like: a willingness to live out Jesus’ example of love and mercy in our lives.
Just before the holidays, my husband and I toured a house where we could both picture making it our own. Knowing better than to get our hopes up, we went through the process of the now-familiar, yet still mind-boggling two-hour turnaround from viewing to offer. We learned the next day that our bid had been accepted. The whirlwind of the first 24 hours, followed by the nerve-wracking quiet and uncertainty of the 45-day close helped us fully understand the cliche “hurry up and wait!”
Becoming homeowners has been a real adjustment, but it’s a change that we’re excited to live into. And even though it’s not perfect (our old apartment furniture looks comically small in an actual house, and we’ve already had our first plumber visit!), we’re grateful for the gift of being able to figure it out together. And as we’ve spent the past two months settling in, we’ve come to realize that our foundation is less about the slab of concrete supporting the four walls around us, and more about continuing to build a life of faith together.
Jennifer Sawyer is Editor-in-Chief of Busted Halo and Amendo. She previously produced video for TV and the web, working for the “The Martha Stewart Show,” ABC, Cooking Channel, and Yahoo. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America, and wrote for “Good Morning America,” before kissing freelance life goodbye. She lives in New York City.